A Campaign of Voter Subtraction: Trump’s Republican Party Must Subtract Votes in Order to SurviveRoundup
tags: Republican Party, voting rights, Donald Trump, 2020 Election
Ibram X. Kendi is Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research.
The people who were attracted to Donald Trump in 2016 have become alienated from President Trump in 2020. White women, seniors, and suburbanites are abandoning him in droves. The other swing voters—who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 but did not vote in 2016—will likely be voting in high numbers, after many of them participated in the largest wave of anti-racist demonstrations in American history.
Trump is trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in polling averages in every swing state. Democrats appear to be within striking distance in the red states of Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina. They could snag Texas, dealing a heavy blow to the national Republican Party and Senator Mitch McConnell’s political career.
Republican Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona publicly called on his party to remember an eternal principle of winning elections: “It’s a game of addition.” Privately, his party is ruled by another eternal principle of winning elections, one that Ducey has supported in Arizona. When a party is losing votes in droves, the path to victory is ensuring that the opposing party is also losing votes in droves. When you can’t add enough votes to win, you subtract enough votes to win, even if some of them come from your own supporters. The opposite of voter addition—adding more and more people to the voting ranks—is not merely voter suppression. It is voter subtraction.
Republicans are literally subtracting untold numbers of individual votes as they suppress the overall Democratic vote. GOP voter subtraction preceded Trump, but not as the GOP’s sole lifeline. For most of the post-civil-rights era, the Republican Party has also been attracting and adding voters, putting the Democratic Party on the defensive after half a century of New Deal dominance.
But in recent years, Democrats have been more likely than Republicans to follow the demographic and ideological shifts of American voters, moving somewhat away from the bipartisan political bigotry of fears, fairy tales, and lies that especially attracted white voters. Republicans, by contrast, have doubled down on those politics under a president who refuses to condemn white-supremacist domestic terrorists, hardly pays taxes, denies racism and climate change, bashes dead soldiers, mocks Christians and disabled people, tells Americans not to let COVID-19 dominate their lives, berates and allegedly assaults women, calls Hispanic immigrants rapists and animals, claims that Muslims hate America, and suggests that unhappy Black people should go back to their urban hells and shithole countries—all the while saying he’s the least racist person anywhere in the world, and making money off of his presidency with impunity. Trump has alienated rising numbers of young voters, voters of color, feminist voters, anti-racist white voters, and Americans who desire presidential decency. Trump has alienated almost everyone except his shrinking base.
Trump’s game of alienation has made voter subtraction the existential game of the Republican Party. Subtracting voters at any cost is all that is saving the Republican Party from political death. Trump’s Republican Party must kill votes in order to survive.
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